I had read this when it came out originally, since a book review had set up the main plot--which since it is mentioned on this site in summary, it will not be a spoiler now--what if Mary appeared to you and you said, basically, forget it? Fantastic idea, and not a bad book. Moore occupies the space between popular and literary novelist, and this book shows his skill and his shortcomings. The former qualities outweigh the latter. But you gain little sense of people in this work, with oddly some of the minor characters like Sister Anne, Herb Luddington, or at times Father Niles. The supporting cast generally seems, however, there to only advance the maddeningly circular direction of this book.
As a related aside, I have seen the very convent that Moore borrows for his novel. The convent's set off memorably on the inland side of the highway from Big Sur as it nears Carmel, yet the drama of its riparian location and nearby Point Lobos is felt here only sporadically. The sensation of place that needs to be so powerful as to haunt Marie and entice ourselves comes fitfully and intermittently. Instead, we get lots of information about who ordered what from the lodge's waitress or rectory housekeeper or attending nun. These details add little to the novel, and they detract attention from the more disturbing undertow that sweeps Marie along. That is what matters in the story, and this is why we're reading it. Not to find out which characters had what for breakfast.
Luckily, after over 20 years I had forgotten the details that convey what pace or suspense the novel needs to build in order to convince us. Rereading it, I wondered how Moore would carry the ending off, and he delays enough information to keep you curious until he reveals all the details of what Mary said, how she said it, and when. Marie's predicament's kept up to the last line of the novel rather skillfully. Still, the cumulative impact of the novel adds up to less than a sum of the parts: "unbelieving adultress" is how the visionary-protagonist describes herself. Certainly promising material. However, after the initial apparition to Marie's related, the rest of the novel's more concerned with filtering her reactions to the apparition through those she suspects are shadowing her--both seen and unseen messengers of God's will.
A deity neither all-loving or all-merciful, apparently. As in other modern visionary accounts, the divine visits upon the seer a vengeful presence that--and Moore does not raise what would have been a more appropriate context given 20c Marian visions--often threatens doom upon those who do not heed warnings from above. Moore sidesteps any durable connection between what Marie recalls and what others claim they see, and this lack of interest by the omniscient narrator saps the novel's latter half of much potential energy. She's not a very sympathetic character, and while this is appropriate for how the novel progresses, it does leave the reader with nobody else to identify much with.
The whole apocalyptic-vs.-restorative nature of the message Marie reports barely registers. Surely this aspect, given Marie's evident unease, would spark more reactions than the Monsignor's rather sophisticated one. Not that I disagree with this cleric's advice to Marie. It's just that she needed more counter-arguments to heighten the impact of her message and its predicted ramifications. [For two other non-fiction studies since then (both written in the aftermath of the Medjugorge apparitions which began in 1985; intriguingly those claimed of "moving statues" in Moore's native Ireland began also just a couple of years after this novel appeared) see Randall Sullivan's The Miracle Detective and Sandra Zimdars-Swartz' academic but accessible Encountering Mary. For some reason, the same error repeats in Sullivan and Moore: spelling the Mexican site of Guadalupe by the French island's name of Guadaloupe.]
Still, this is a thoughtful, if rather quickly written (so it seems to me in the massive amount of mundane detail and plot points entered into but not fully explored), theological thriller. Not that it's scary in the obvious sense or half-baked like certain more currently famed novels on Catholic skulduggery. It does get under your skin if you let it, despite its flaws. The central theme's so inherently interesting that it allows you as a reader to cut the novel some slack. So, in spite of an uneven pace and too many underdeveloped scenes "Cold Heaven" manages to remain rather plausible in its main character's arc. A feat to be discounted in our determinedly secularized yet stubbornly irrational era!